Wait, what? There is Another Option for Gender???

Growing up there were only two options for gender. I had the parts for a boy, so I was sorted into that category. My identity did not match my birth gender so obviously I didn’t in. Actually I stuck out as sore thumb.I would always tell people that inside I felt like a woman. Looking back I always thought it was because I was a gay boy. It wasn’t until recently that I discovered that I never really fit into the gay community either.

I tried hard to fit in and it always made me feel horrible. I was constantly judged for my size. To most gay men a fat person is a leper. When I found the bear community I thought at least I found the place to fit in and I couldn’t be more wrong. Toxic masculinity is rampant in the bear world where everything is hypersexualized. Where the bears are real men. No fats or fems allowed. I suppress my femininity for a long while, especially around those in the bear community. I hid behind this masculine facade. It was all an illusion. I fit the type. I was a big, hairy and bearded. My outside didn’t match my insides. I felt less because I was comparing myself to others. I didn’t have another example to go by.

The toxic masculinity ran so deep that I was oblivious to it for a very long time. I first started to chip away at that during 2010 when I performed in drag. When I looked in the mirror for the first time I was amazed. I felt like I was looking at myself for the first. It was the first time I felt beautiful. I was totally fabulous, all dolled up. My outside finally matched who I was inside. These feelings quickly subsided as my life didn’t warrant embracing that side of me. I didn’t have a word for it, nor did I know what I meant. I was in an abusive relationship at the time and that took priority having to deal with the aftermath of moving out of state away from him. I did what I have done in the past and went back into hiding. It became just another memory of my past.

After a while I gave up trying to be that person everyone wanted me to be. I couldn’t do it anymore. I had pretended to be someone else for too long and I was fed up. So I embraced my fabulousness and my femininity. Without thinking what it meant I started to identify as queer a few years ago. Even with that I didn’t realize it went deeper than the label of describing my sexual orientation, that it was related to my gender. Like I said for the longest time I didn’t have anyone to compare myself too that was like me.

That was until the popularity of RuPaul’s Drag Race. I started to notice the queens who embraced that side of them. They didn’t try to wrap themselves up in that mold. They just lived freely and were no holds barred fabulous! Queens like Jinkx Monsoon who didn’t try to be anyone but themselves. Jinkx after her time on RPDR would come out to be non-binary. Even then I didn’t connect it to my gender. I didn’t realize I was looking at myself.

It wasn’t until recently when I started to work on my comic book Dragzilla that I started to open up. Slowly the layers started to peel away. I had always had some sort of facial hair. I haven’t been clean shaven since my early twenties. I didn’t realize that I was hiding behind my beard. It was until last year that I realized that I didn’t even like my beard. I started to embrace Dragzilla and the lines between fiction and real life started to blur. Dragzilla is the story of fierce drag queen superhero who stands up against hate crimes while her alter ego is shy and insecure. I realized that I was telling my story. Dragzilla is who I am. Who I am becoming.

It took me a while to see the writing on the wall or in this case the pages of the comic. I remember going into therapy with a word that I was struggling with. I was scared to say Transgender. Was I transgender? That was the only other option that I saw. If my body didn’t match my insides then it was natural to question it. I had very little to go by and what I did see was Transgender people. I was really confused for a while and I still am a bit. It took a few months then it dawned on me that there was a fourth option. It was then I realized that my queerness related to my gender, that I was genderqueer/non-binary. It was a huge revelation. No wonder I hated myself for most of my life. I have never felt like I could be myself. I had always felt like I was a freak who never fit in anywhere.

I remember Courtney Act (a fierce, fish of a queen) talk about gender being a spectrum and I really related to that. It wasn’t until recently that I realized how true that was. I’ve started growing out my hair, which is also new for me. A few weeks ago I had went to the grocery store and put my hair up. I don’t think I have ever felt that free. It was an amazing feeling. I wish that it lasted. While I have this new discovery I have forty years of falsehoods to shake free. I wish it were just as easy as transforming myself like a butterfly from a cocoon but unfortunately live doesn’t work that way. The transformation is much more gradual.

Today in therapy I talked about how I felt the old me was holding me back. I had recently decided to change my name to Drew. At first it felt great when I changed my name on Facebook but very quickly I started to feel less because I started to think about what others would think. That’s the problem. I care too much what others think of me. I hate it. That’s something I really wish I could let go of. I have come a long ways but I still have ways to go. I use to let it stop me from doing what I wanted. Now I say fuck it and do it anyways but deep down inside I’m afraid of being judged. It’s not just my gender that I do this. I live in fear. I’m disabled and on food stamps. I hate when I have to use my card. I try to hide it the best I can because it’s always my fear that someone will confront me as I look like an abled-bodied person. This is just one example.

I’ve had a bit of buyers remorse which isn’t nothing new. I have done that most of my life. The closer I was to who I was inside the more I tried to fight it. I have mastered self destruction. The difference now is that I’m in therapy and have a therapist I love. I’m able to process it deeply and look at it in a different way. I feel a bit of tug and war. My old self is trying hard to pull the new me under. The stronger I get the harder it becomes. I have days I feel like I can embrace Drew and then there are days Derek takes hold of me. I haved lived 41 years falsely as a man and that caused a lot of damage. It’s created a lot of baggage that I must dust off, pick up and throw away. One piece of luggage at a time. The days will pass when I have more days where I embrace non-binary than not. The key is to not beat myself up, which I do a lot. To be easy with myself. To expect that there will be days where the process is messy and difficult. I wish it were just as easy as putting on a wig and makeup. While that’s a start I have to work from the inside out if this will ever stick.

It starts slowly like a ripple in the water. I want to buy a safety razor so I can start shaving regularly. That will be a big step as having a beard isn’t me. I’m starting of think of new ways of embracing all parts of me. I’m learning to be comfortable with who I really am and part of that is expressing myself on the exterior. I’m excited about growing my hair out to the point of frustration because it’s taking to long to grow out. Hopefully the exterior and interior will be welded together. As I get more comfortable inside it’s easier for me to embrace it to the world. I had the thought today as I was leaving the grocery store about what would happen if I wore a dress. I went right to fear of someone saying something nasty to me. I just need to let that go. If someone has the nerve to come up to me with judgments expect to be knocked to the ground. I just need to embrace the strength of Dragzilla. Just live my life as I want and not care what anyone else thinks. So what if someone judges me, they will do it regardless. As RuPaul says, it’s not my business. I don’t have time for them. I’m too busy being fabulous.

I just need to enjoy the ride. I hope that everything fades away and I can start loving myself. I’m inpatient. I want to attach my cocoon to a stick and whip it all around. The butterfly will never emerge that way. The metamorphosis is gradual and natural. All in due time. The transformation is a journey and a process. Eventually I will fully shed my male skin and it will just be another memory in the past.

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Femmephobia in the Gay Community

So I was reading comments on a Facebook post (I know that’s a recipe for disaster) about a young gay man who was overtly feminine. Well the article wasn’t about his personality but that didn’t stop the haters from spewing their internalized homophobia. In an hour of the posting there were at least four comments about how he was a disgrace to the LGBTQ community and that he was making the “normal” gay men look bad. I was just disgusted and reminded about how much internal homophobia there still is.

Sure I get it. Most of us had to hide who we were for a very long time. We were told having feminine traits was unacceptable. A man loving another man that’s not masculine. Men are macho, drink beer and are womanizers. Society has set this idea of what is and isn’t acceptable for men, as they have with women. If you don’t fit that mold you’re made to feel less. As to not stick out like a sore thumb you go inward hiding who you. The only thing that does is stunts your growth.

Bottom line gay men who look down upon guys who are feminine have deeply rooted misogyny. I’ve always wondered what is so wrong with a man having the traits stereotypical for a woman or man who wears a dress and/or makeup? Why does society tell us that it’s wrong and ugly? Who wrote the book on the rules and guidelines for masculinity and femininity. I have yet to find that book. So why do so many people feel trapped by this to the point they have to prove to the world their masculine by shunning anyone who might break a hole in their false image.

I look at our gay youth and I’m just awe inspired at their courage to be whoever they want. Most of them never had to endure what we did and we should be happy for that. They’ve not had it thrown down their throats that they must conform to the rules of manhood. They can be just as fabulous as they were born to be. Guys who are femmephobic are so jaded and bitter that they must take it out on others. To feel good about themselves they have this great desire to tear others down. The only person that looks bad is them but they don’t care. They don’t even see the elephant in the room.

That kind of hatred is dangerous and toxic. Growing up it was always known that men don’t cry. I would compare myself to other boys and I always felt different. I didn’t like the same things that most boys did. I wasn’t into sports and I loved musicals. When I came out of the closet it was the most freest I’ve ever been. Those chains no longer tied me down but sadly for so many they still are even years after they’ve come out. I can remember a date that I was on in my early twenties and the guy just gave it to me about how much like a woman I was. He went out of his way to shun me. I felt horrible but he was the one with the problem.

It’s so easy to forget what is out there until you’re faced with it head on. I learned this when I started to perform in drag. I had guys who’d tell me that they wouldn’t date me because of it. I even had other gay guys question why I dressed up in drag. Personally I think drag queens are the best part of our gay community. So many don’t see it that way. To get up on stage in heels, makeup and a dress takes nerve in this world. I mean getting on stage is nerve wracking enough. I love anyone who says fuck you to the social norms. Drag for me blends gender and art. So many gay guys look down upon drag queens when in reality they were the ones fighting for equality early on. We have them to think for a lot of the strides we have made today. How a person dresses and/or acts has no relation to who they are inside. How someone dresses doesn’t make them a bad person. A bad person is someone who does bad things including making others  feel less. There’s no strength in belittling someone else for who they are, what they wear and who they love.

I can’t imagine what my transgender brothers and sisters must endure on a daily basis. They’re at the forefront of this battle. So many are judging them for who they are deep within. It’s not surprising that so many transgender people try to end their lives, not to mention the countless murders of trans folks. All because of gender. Misogyny is what it boils down to. From the beginning of time women have been treated less. Like being a woman makes you less of a person. Who the fuck came up with that rule??? I think being a woman is one of the best things in this world. I mean women bring life into this world. If it weren’t for women we’d all be fucked. So anyone that tries to step out of the social norm is instantly an outcast. I mean that’s why people have such a problem with being gay. We’re breaking the rules thus for breaking the ceiling in their hate filled house. I learned this a long time ago with my father. People like this gain a false sense of control by grasping onto an ideology. They’re not confident with it because it’s not real so in order to stay safe they must convince as many people as they can that their way. They will stop at nothing to stop the cracks from breaking them free. They don’t care who they drag down or who they hurt in the process, as long as it keeps them safe and secure.

Life is too short be whoever you want to be. That’s how I approach life. If it’s not hurting anyone and the person enjoys it then more power to them. For the longest time I was embarrassed by my feminine side, as I had been brainwashed into believing that it was an abomination. I now realize that’s the best part of me. I love my sensitivity and the fact that I’m not afraid to cry. It’s taken me a long time but I’m finally proud to be fabulous and I feel bad for those who don’t feel it themselves. They’ve hidden those beautiful traits for so long that the lack of has become a part of their personalities.

Anyone who doesn’t fit that mold is labeled a loser. Guys on this post called him disgusting, not apart of the community. They just continue to spew. They’ve internalized the homophobia cast upon them and in return are doing the exact same thing to others who have the traits that they were scolded for. These types of guys are stuck in the past and are going to be left behind. The youth of today are free from those chains that held us down for so long, at least most of them. They can be whoever they want to be without the fear of judgment.

Our youth have broken the mold of what it means to be gay. They’ve colored outside the lines. There is this young boy who I quite admire. He’s proud of his fabulousness and he’s constantly encouraging me to be proud of mine. To this day I still struggle to be me. Here he is at ten years old (or around that age) and not afraid to be himself. It’s so refreshing to watch his journey. Thankfully he has a wonderfully, loving mother who embraces who he is and encourages his exploration. I mean this kid is already a fashion icon. There are so many young boys just like him. I wish I was able to be like that when I was a kid. I’m not one of these gay guys who are so stubborn and stuck in their ways that they feel like they’ve got to prove that way is wrong. While I’m sad I couldn’t embrace my fabulousness that early I’m proud and happy they have the chance to. That’s all we can hope for, that the next generation will have it easier than we did.

So I’m just disgusted when I read these types of comments because it reminds me of what I went through. I’m very thankful I didn’t let that poison turn me into the person who shunned and judged me. No one should be judged or made to feel less for who they are or who they love. If a man wants to wear a dress who cares. The last time I checked wearing a dress isn’t going to cause the end of the world, though some act like it will. Neither will wearing makeup. Life is tough enough, be what you want to be. There is no normal or a mold that you have to fit in.

One of my favorite poems speaks to all of this:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

Marianne Williamson

We are ALL meant to shine. Who are you not to be? Be fabulous, wear it proudly. We’ve earned that right. So if you want to sashay down the runway, do it! I can tell you that you’ll probably enjoy it. I’ve hid for so many years and not just my femininity. It causes great internal damage. Playing small doesn’t serve the world, it doesn’t help anyone especially yourself. When you’re authentic and free that liberates others. So by being fabulous you’re giving another human being the courage to do so as well.

In the end, I feel sorry for these guys. So lost and stuck that they don’t even realize it. They’re the one with the issue and the only ones making our community look bad. We’ve been put through enough, it’s our time to shine.

Is That All There is to Gay Online Community?

In therapy this week, I talked about how the internet has been both my friend and enemy. How at times it is an outlet for my feelings and emotions, and other times it doesn’t give me what I need. For as long as I can remember I have used the internet for meeting people. When I got my first computer at the age of 19 in 1995, I can remember the AOL chat rooms. I also can remember easily being able to start up platonic conversations with people. Through those chat rooms I even met a really a good friend.

Now days I struggle with having meaningful interactions with people online. I am not sure if it is because I am older or a bit jaded, or if things really have changed? Maybe it is a little of all three. On various apps like Growlr, Scruff, Grindr, etc I send out friendly platonic message and rarely do I ever get a response back. It is easy to allow it to make you feel less. I still catch myself taking it personal.

Even on Growlr, which is a site for bears, I struggle with getting responses. I have noticed that muscle bears are the most popular, and the ones the site usually features on their facebook page. I guess I have always saw bears as being more on the husky side but with the popularity increase of the community things have changed. Plus you have the whole masculinity label, in which I don’t adhere to. Seeing things like masculine only, no one overweight, no fems or flammers is a common occurrence. I have always struggled with the whole concept of masculinity. It all depends on whose definition of masculinity you go by. I have no issue with masculinity but what I do have an issue with anti-femininity. Some see these two concepts as a gender and I don’t think that is all that healthy. Personally I have both masculine and feminine traits, and I am proud of all of them.

The problem with labels is that many times you don’t fall into that category, you feel left out or less. I have found myself questioning what parts of myself do I include on Growlr and Scruff. Finally I just said fuck with it, you like me for me or not at all but that has taken years and I still fall into that trap.

I find that so many of these sites are centered around sex, especially on websites like Adam4Adam, or even Bear411. These sites have numerous adds for porn with x rated pictures plastered all over the page. I understand sites like A4A that are free to members, have to make money but I still am very turned off by those sites. There are some who argue that websites lie A4A are for hooking up and maybe that is so, but I know there are others on there who are looking for more than just sex.

Thankfully on apps for the iPhone and Android x-rated pictures are not allowed. Though they feel just like a meat market as well. They just have their meat behind the case and not in plain sight.

As much as I struggle with this all, I can see how our community has become this. Socially we aren’t taught to accept ourselves for who we are. Even in the culture and media outside of the LGBT community there is a feminine stigma. Just look how some republicans view Women still to this day. We are not taught to embrace love, so in return we do the same to each other.

I can relate to whole hooking up world. There was a time that I was caught up into it. I didn’t feel like I could get the real connection and the one I yearned for… So I tried to get it anyway I could. So  I started looking for sex online. I thought something was better than nothing. I had convinced myself that I couldn’t ever find the real thing, nor did I deserve it. In the end, it only just reinforced my insecurities and brought up some very deep issues of my past. Not only was it making me feel worse, I wasn’t getting what I really needed.

I guess what it boils down to is I don’t feel like I fit in. I am not masculine (and for some too big) enough for Scruff or Growlr. I am too old and big for Grindr. Plus on top of this I live in a very rural town, and even the bigger city near me has limited options.

It is obvious I need to venture out into the big world and that scares me, which is a separate topic in itself.

My question is why aren’t there alternatives online. I can’t be the only gay man looking for friendship??? Just take a look at the personal section on Craigslist and you will easily feel disheartened. Go to the strictly platonic section and it is a ghost town. The romance section is even worse. Which reminds me of one of my favorite songs by Peggy Lee called “Is That All There Is.”

I am not saying that you can’t make friends on the internet or have decent conversations, they are just appear to be more difficult. What I do find it impossible with the few people I do talk to locally is getting them to want to meet up. It is not like I am saying hey lets go hook up, I usually just say would you like to go out to a movie or dinner… Maybe they are just being polite in talking to me, maybe they think I am looking for more than friends? I am not sure but it is frustrating.

I guess I am realizing I have to turn somewhere else for making in person connections. I am not confident it will be at a bar either. I have always heard doing activities that you enjoy is the best way to meet people. I just have to realize what that is and find activities like that. Living in a small community certainly has it’s challenges but I know that there has to be some kind hearted people out there who care about the world around them.

Is anyone else struggling with the issues and finding alternatives to meet people? I wish there was a friend app.

Does anyone else have thoughts and comments to add? I would love to hear them.